Bowmore, 56.1% – OB for Feis Ile 2014

Mostly, when a Feis Ile bottling comes out, there are ways of identifying it apart from the release for the festival. Lagavulin generally has an age, Ardbeg had some ridiculous theme, Laphroaig has a Cairdeas edition and so on. Bowmore generally has some of these things too, or a specific cask type or so. In this case, however, they just have a cask strength bourbon cask release without an age statement.

It sounds almost like some random single cask that came out from any other bottler. So, a cask strength Bowmore from 1st fill bourbon barrels. Nothing else.

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Image from WhiskyBase

Sniff:
Thick smoke with a briny edge. Apple, pineapple, tangerine and grapefruit. Salty smoke, dry oak. Rather dry, with a hint of cigarette.

Sip:
Dry with a lot of focus on the smoke and wood. Very fruity again, apple, pineapple, tangerine and grapefruit. Very fruity and very Bowmore, with buttercream icing.

Swallow:
Here the salinity is back. The smoke is more pronounced too. The fruit wanes first, and the ‘surf wood’ lasts longest.

Strangely, while this is ‘yet another young Bowmore’, it is a very good one. It is much more fruity, with even specific flavors to the smokeyness. Lots of tropical pineapple and tangerine and grapefruit. Absolutely lovely.

So, I guess this one has another classification after all: “That great fruity one from 2014”! Gorgeous stuff!

It’s not even that expensive now, clocking in at € 150 in the secondary market.

89/100

Bowmore Feis Ile 2014, 1st Fill American Oak Barrels, 56.1%

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Glenrothes 1997-2016, 53.5% – WhiskyBroker (for Van Zuylen)

The Van Zuylen bit is between brackets in the title since this whisky came out as a shop bottling for Van Zuylen AND a regular bottling from WhiskyBroker. It seems they split the cask since it’s the same cask number and the same ABV (so no different bottling dates either).

Anyway, heavily sherried Glenrothes from 1997 have so far been hugely successful in my book, with the The Single Cask one being great, and the WhiskyBase version being ‘merely’ very good. I guess there’s no problem trying yet another one!

 

Images from WhiskyBase

Sniff:
Big, fat sherry, with the predictable but good dried fruits. Dates and plums. Some leathery shoe polish notes, and lots of oak. All very predictable, but also very good.

Sip:
Very, very dry. Much more so than expected. Also lots of chili heat. Lots of oak, lots of dried fruit. Lots of predictability.

Swallow:
The finish mellows very quickly until some burnt caramel/molasses/treacle sweetness remains.

Glenrothes’ spirit is used as a palate, but gets completely swamped. It’s good, but very predictable. You’re actually just getting fruity oak booze. At some point something like ‘too sherried’ exists, and this is it in my book. It’s just too much and at this point it could be neutral grain alcohol from a massively active sherry cask, I guess. A bit of a shame. Still rather tasty, but not a good ‘whisky’, and definitely shit if you’re trying to find out what Glenrothes’s character is.

If this drinking ‘sherry oak’ is what you like, you can get a bottle for 144 euros in Whiskybase’s Marketplace.

80/100

Glenrothes 1997-2016, 19 years old, Sherry Butt 7157, 53.5%.

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Bowmore 15, 55.4% – OB for Feis Ile 2012

It’s probably not a secret for anyone who has spent any time reading this wee blog, but I love me some Bowmore. Apart from some expressions that are just a bit too straight forward I think their lighter Islay character, with the citrusy notes, go very well with the smoke, brine and sometimes light ‘cat pee’ notes that I know the distillery for.

This sample had been sitting on my shelf for ages, probably for close to seven years, and I decided I should drink it before it went bad. So, as it turned out (virtually no information on the label) this was a sherried Bowmore at 15 years old. By my guess this shouldn’t have cost more than 80 quid back in the day, and it’s now up to 300, which I don’t even find that shocking.

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Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
Big and sharp sherry notes, not unlike The Devil’s Casks that were released some years ago. Leathery with hints of rancio and furniture polish. It takes a while to get beyond the initial sharpness. Then I start getting notes of dates, but also of sour cherries.

Sip:
The palate is surprisingly gentle for a rather long while before it starts building. It doesn’t get to the sharpness you’d expect of a nose like this one has. Sweet with syrupy sherry notes. Sour cherries, dates, plums. Still leathery, but not as much as on the nose. Syrupy in texture, which accentuates the sweetness a bit. I get hints of almond and a whiff of bitterness after about half a minute.

Swallow:
The finish ramps up the funky notes from before. Leather, rancio, furniture polish and wax. Big spicy sherry but with some toned down hints of fruit like on the palate.

An insanely tasty dram and showing a whole different side of Bowmore compared to most of what I’ve tasted recently. However, remembering The Devil’s Casks, Laimrig and editions like that, this dram should come as no surprise. More like an affirmation of Bowmore well deserved legendary status.

Interestingly, Bowmore is very good at whiskies like this, even thought they don’t really match the normal ‘lighter’ distillery character. Still, awesome stuff, though.

90/100

Bowmore 15, Sherry cask, 1 of 750 bottles, 55.4%, OB for Feis Ile 2012. Available in the secondary market for € 300

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Bruichladdich 25, 1993-2018, 49.3 – Cadenhead’s for NL

Bruichladdich is one of those distilleries that I really, really like. However, I do recognize that the whisky distilled around its closing date in 1993. This must have been distilled in the last few months of it being open, before being mothballed.

Of course, in 2001 they reopened and have gone to great heights since, from almost all angles.

Anyway, back to this whisky. It’s drawn from a Bourbon Hogshead and bottled at cask strength. Not too strong at 25 years old, since it came from the cask at 49.3%.

I bought it some months ago when it was discounted. Somehow this one doesn’t sell well, even though it’s not overly expensive. Sure, € 170 is a lot of money, but for a 25 year old whisky from Islay it’s nothing to be surprised about.

Let’s see where this sits on the flavor spectrum.

20190531_072939Sniff:
Very malty, dusty. A bit of coastal salinity, with a minuscule whiff of smoke. Some vanilla, bread, shortbread. Very old fashioned, and a bit like a musty attic, or a granary.

Sip:
Consistently malty, and rather typical for Bruichladdich from this era, right before it closed down. Again, the granary at the beach. Some heat from the alcohol, more so than expected.

Swallow:
The finish has some of that old Bruuchladdich too, which reminds me of the lesser years from this distillery.

The malt focus is something I like a lot, and generally it works very well for Bruichladdich. However, we’re in the realms of a distillery in decline and like some others, the distillate from right before closing is not very good.

This is actually a tad boring and the maltiness is a bit stale. It tastes tired, if that is a thing. Compared to some Cadenhead’s Bruichladdichs from the late eighties, this is a whole different league, unfortunately.

84/100

Bruichladdich 25, 1993-2018, Bourbon Hogshead, 49.3%, Cadenhead’s for Bresser & Timmer (the Dutch importer of Cadenhead’s). Available from various retailers.

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Balblair 1999-2017, 3rd release, 46%

Recently Balblair have switched to using age statements instead of vintages. I can understand the marketing effectiveness of it, since vintages don’t really mean anything unless you also clearly state when something was bottled.

This one, however, was bottled in 2017, so we’re talking about a 17 or 18 year old whisky here. From both ‘sherry and American oak casks’. This doesn’t state it necessarily, but it insinuates that the sherry cask is European oak.

Shamefully, and I have said it before on the blog, Balblair isn’t a regular sighting in The Netherlands. Strange, since it’s a very popular style of whisky, and the level of quality versus the price per bottle is exceptional. Let’s see if this one lives up to my personal expectations!

20190526_133336Sniff:
Quite some oak, with dry baking spices and a little bit of bitterness to it. Dried apricots, dates, and some Speculaas (which is more baking spices). Some crushed black pepper, but mostly sherry and fruit.

Sip:
Gentle, dry and oaky. Lots of fruit, lots of baking spices and quite a peppery taste. The dryness accentuates the pepper even more. The bitterness in the fruit is still present, like on the nose. Gentle, but not without a bite. Sherry, some custard like sweetness and marmalade.

Swallow:
The finish veers away from the spices a bit, and becomes more focused on the wood and the bitterness from the fruits. Still sweet, but a bit less so than before.

1999 was 18 years ago when this was bottled, and that’s noticeable. I still think of whisky from 1999 to be young, but that’s just because that actually was young when I started getting into Single Malt.

This one is, maybe, a little bit straight forward, but absolutely not without its merits. Quite some depth and quite a lot of flavors to be discovered. Nice and fruity, but nothing that surprised me. A rather predictable, but very tasty whisky. No wonder the bottle is going very fast…

87/100

Balblair 1999-2017, 3rd release, Sherry and American oak casks, 46%. It shouldn’t set you back more than € 100, and is regularly discounted.

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Ardbeg 1993-2003, 52.9% – Spirit of Scotland for Potstill Vienna

Yet another random sample I found on my shelf. Ardbeg 1993 caught my eye since that’s a vintage that’s becoming insanely expensive nowadays. Of course, the label was lacking any other information, so I had absolutely no clue to the age of the whisky, nor the bottler or the ABV.

So, apart from the vintage and that it’s bottled for Potstill Vienna, I had to Google for a couple of minutes before I found the rest of the information. Of course, the whisky is on Whiskybase, but I had to go through Google to find it there too.

So, 1993 Ardbeg. A popular vintage from a popular distillery. One that earned it’s mainstay reputation through legendary bottlings of yonder year, but one that I honestly find lacking in the last decade or so. Stuff is too expensive and not as good as the price tag suggests. Maybe this one is different?

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Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
Quite a bit of peat for an oldie like this. Sea weed, sand and brine. Some apple, dried flowers and marram grass.

Sip:
Quite a strong one with lots of alcohol and dryness. Dried flowers, hay and grass. Wood, brine, sand. Some apple and a bit of simple syrup. A tiny hint of vanilla too.

Swallow:
Quite a lot of sharpness on the finish too. Some more cask than spirit influences here. A bit more sweetness and vanilla, a bit less flowery and dry.

The first remark about this being an oldie was based on the assumption that this wasn’t bottled more than a decade before I got my sample. Somehow I didn’t really expect a very young whisky, but at 9 or 10 years old, that’s what this is.

So, that I found the peat to be more prominent than I expected from an older whisky is correct at least. It’s not an older whisky, so that’s explained. Apart from that, it’s not stellar. It’s not bad either, but it’s just, you know, Ardbeg. Not stellar, not bad. Lots of peatsmoke, and apart from that it is a bit of a Lowlands style whisky. But with peat.

85/100

Ardbeg 1993-2003, Cask 1091, 52.9%, Gordon & MacPhail / Spirit of Scotland / Potstill Vienna.

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Spirit of Freedom 30 years old, 46%

A bottling done five years ago to commemorate the 700th Anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, logically in 1314 AD. It was released by Springbank distillery, so logically this would be rather similar to their Campbeltown Loch series.

Also, a thirty year old blended whisky that, when released, cost less than 100 pounds, if memory serves. It has slowly crawled up to 160 quid by now, so not everything is going mental after a few years of collecting dust.

I got a sample back in the day and didn’t get around to it. Then it got lost in the masses until I randomly grabbed it to take on holiday a couple of weeks ago. I finally tried it, and reviewed it.

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Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
Light and malty, some fruits like apples pears. Some vanilla, and grain whisky sweetness. Custard, apple crumble.

Sip:
Quite a bit sharper than I expected. Lots of dry grain, some salinity and minerals. Iron, apples, slate.

Swallow:
The finish gets even more grainy. Lots of dry grains ans some salinity. Not much oak

Surprisingly light on the oak. It’s a bit less smoky and less oak driven than I expected from a thirty year old made by Springbank Distillers. As in, the vanilla is an oak flavor, but it’s not very woody, which I expected a bit more of.

All in all it’s a nice dram that warrants its original price tag. However, I do remember the Campbeltown Loch 30 years old more fondly than I do this one. It’s just not very special, not very different from the norm.

86/100

Spirit of Freedom 30 year old, btld 2014, 46%

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